Cisco Blogs

5 Predictions for the Future of Collaboration – #3

- April 22, 2009 - 9 Comments

Here is my third prediction regarding the future of collaboration:Prediction #1.Prediction #2.Prediction #4.Prediction #5.Prediction 3: Innovation will be redefined by Operational ExcellenceThere is a long-standing debate about what drives long term success: Is it innovation OR Operational Excellence? Traditionally we viewed this as an either-or proposition, and most companies have taken pride in being really good at one or the other.What we hear from most CEOs, CTOs and CIOs is that we need to do both — especially during the current economic downturn. We no longer have the luxury of choosing one vs. the other.Collaboration is a critical element that allows enterprises to combine operational excellence and innovation. Case in point: At Cisco we now have 28 corporate priorities we are driving, many of which we believe will turn into billion dollar growth opportunities for the company. It’s inconceivable to try to innovate on 28 priorities without having operational discipline and metrics to manage that.The way we combine the two at Cisco is by collaborating on a global basis ― via segment councils, cross functional boards and expert working groups. Again, collaboration allows us to connect people, information and communities.We take the view that our ideas get stronger when they’re shared. The quality and speed of decision-making improves dramatically when people with diverse view points and expertise come together rapidly with shared goals.We are all facing constraints in CapEx and OpEx spending. We all face reduced budgets and the need to do more with less. In this environment, Collaboration is going to redefine the relationship between innovation and operational excellence.

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  1. Innovation should drive operational excellence not be a substitute for it although like the article suggests we need innovation in all areas. Of course the article is also true that for large companies like Cisco it is impossible to initiate innovation in many different areas without a sound operational program.

  2. It can seem counterintuitive to suggest that more collaboration means swifter decisions. For many, the quickest way to make a decision is specifically NOT to collaborate! As a boss of mine in another life once said, he best committee is a committee of 2 where one of the member is away sick""!But the real issue is that the nature of the decisions about which we need to collaborate has become more complex and contested, which means that often the quickest way to secure an outcome that can be sustained and widely supported is to take more time to engage those whose motivation and interests are most at stake. So, the paradox is that taking longer (ie to do collaboration well) can get you to where you want to be quicker.In the end, collaboration can often be a confronting emotional experience, having to share ideas before they are 'perfect', admitting that others have views and insights that might mean you have to change yours and so on. Technology is increasingly indispensable, but the heart of the challenge is profoundly and sometimes distractingly human."

  3. Yet another fine prediction.You wrote ...We take the view that our ideas get stronger when they’re shared..."" I agree absolutely. But a note of caution: you must share your ideas with the right people and at the right time, else you risk the idea being killed or worse, sold to the competition. This is what is prevalent nowadays in my part of the world!You also said that ""...The quality and speed of decision-making improves dramatically when people with diverse view points and expertise come together rapidly with shared goals..."" I agree also. But in every group of imperfect humans - that we all are - there is always a 'Judas' who'd want to stop the wheel of progress.Please I'm not trying to be a pessimist here, just stating things as they are in my part of the world."

  4. I think, Innovation and Operational Excellence are not exactly on the two ends of a spectrum as it is made out to be here in this note.

  5. Abhijeet, I agree 100% with your view that collaboration has to include customers as well."" Customers are our lifeblood. They are depending on us more than ever to not just sell them things, but to partner with them during the downturn and help them prepare for the upturn. By getting closer to customers, driving loyalty, and working hard to understand and meet their needs, it will not only have a lasting impact on our relationships with them, but will also enable us to outpace the competition."

  6. Ademola, thank you for raising a very valid point. The reality is that not everyone brings contributions and value to the table in every collaborative effort. Part of what is needed is human judgment in understanding what kind of expertise and behavioral skills you need to make a project successful. Technology can also play a key role. The network can provide valuable intelligence and context to a collaborative experience, identifying in real-time who you are as a team member, where you are, what device you are using, whether or not you’re available -- and importantly, what your credentials are and how much access you should be given to potentially sensitive information.

  7. I would say that collaboration has to include customers as well. Current management structures enforce an us v/s them"" attitude. Innovative collaboration particularly for product development and GTM efforts can produce spectacular results. Secondly the we need to think about ""groups"" differently. Groups are largely created to include functional expertise. While that is important, it is essential to bring groups together with similar ""Values"" to create vale based communities rather than groups. This increases the motivational aspect of a group."

  8. gone are the days when firms had to choose one market winner over a set of market qualifiers. In this hyper-competitive environment where competitive advantage is really short lived, Innovation and Operational Excellence need to be pursued hand-in-hand, and effective collaboration is certainly a way to achieve synergies between the two.

  9. A hearty ABSOLUTELY. The realization of this need - to innovate while execuing operational excellence - is a gift of the current economic downturn (Nothing like a crisis to create forward-driving focus). At my firm we hlp leaders find money in the performance chain while improving customer experiences. The leaders who get that this is not a tradeoff will win.